Regardless of the economic climate in Canada, starting a new business is always a challenge. Thankfully, there is some recourse available for companies that are ready to bring beneficial change to the Canadian economy. The 2013 Canadian budget allocated a whopping $121 million investment into the National Research Council to increase wealth creation for Canada.
Part of the budget will go toward the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). The program aims to help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses increase their innovation capacity and take their ideas to market.
Below is a high-level introduction to the IRAP program:
What is IRAP?
The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) is an innovation assistance program for Canadian small and medium-sized businesses. IRAP provides advice, connections to Canada's best businesses and Research expertise, as well as financial support on an annual basis. As a government funding program, eligible companies are not obligated to repay the IRAP funding received.
The IRAP eligibility requirements include:
- Incorporated and profit-driven Canadian small and medium-sized businesses
- 500 or fewer full-time employees
- Commitment to developing and commercializing of innovative and technology-driven new or improved products, services or processes in Canada
The Benefits of IRAP
From financial support to advisory services, companies that meet the requirements should utilize IRAP to propel their business forward.
IRAP Financial Assistance
IRAP funds are meant to provide companies with support for technology innovation. The funds are to be used on specific projects or services that drive innovation and can include:
- Acquiring or adopting technology
- Marketing and commercialization support
- Research and business development
- Offsetting project costs
- Wages and training
Prior to applying, companies are urged to put together a cohesive plan for an upcoming project to be submitted with the funding proposal.
IRAP Funding Requirements
However, the IRAP funding application process goes beyond the mere submission of a funding proposal. To qualify for the funding, applicants must undergo a successful consultation with a local Industry Technology Advisor. That advisor will review these attributes of the company:
- Management team, including evaluating the worthiness of current leadership
- Financial stability, including the ability to cover additional expenditures related to IRAP-funded projects
- Company skillsets, such as the ability to develop and market products or services
- Technology overview of technology in use and potential project pitfalls
- Market and business opportunities, such as potential customers, problems solved by products in development, and strategies to gain market share
- High-level project plans and timelines
There is no annual deadline to apply, but businesses are encouraged to submit proposals as soon as possible.
Pathways to Funding
Funding assistance is available under four sub-programs, each with its own unique purpose and funding cap. In general, IRAP funds are capped around $150,000, with exceptions made on a case by case basis.
Technology Innovation Projects:
This sub-program offers small grants of up to $50,000 for the commercialization or research and development of technology projects.
Mid-sized Technology Innovation Projects:
This program is intended for those creating original software or working on internal R&D projects.
Youth Employment Strategy Programs:
The Youth Employment Strategy Program is designed to help young Canadians develop skills, find good jobs and stay employed. Eligible companies can hire up to 2 young students or graduates that are 15 to 30 years old to work in a technology-related role within their business. The program offers funds of up to $30,000 per graduate for a period of 6-12 months.
Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program:
This program offers up to $100,000 or 80% of direct labour and 75% of subcontractor costs to accelerate the product development process for qualifying technology companies.
Making IRAP Work for You
The IRAP program has contributed to the success of countless Canadian businesses. If your company is qualified for the IRAP funding, this is an opportunity not to be missed.